April 25, 2010

A few thoughts on the second debate: the long shot

I’ve only just caught up on this, having been away for a few days. It was certainly interesting, there’s a whole host of things I could pick up on but one thing jumped out at me.

This story has been going around about how a Lib Dem win could cause major problems for Rupert Murdoch and his ilk. It’s a fascinating and exciting read. Couple that with the mostly blunt knives the press have had out on Clegg over the last few days and they’re clearly panicking. Now the second debate was show live on Sky News, which is of course part of the Murdoch empire. However, the debate rules are so detailed that’d be impossible for the broadcaster to influence it, wouldn’t it?

Let’s put aside Adam Boulton’s rather rude attempt to bring up the recent newspaper stories about Clegg, despite them having nothing to do with the question asked. We’ll do that as Clegg swept him aside brilliantly. Instead, lets look at the long shot. I’m not talking about Clegg. I’m talking about the camera angle used when they wanted to show all three leaders in one shot.

First note that the positioning of each leader in the debate was arranged between the parties beforehand. Presumably to make it fair. You have three people, so someone has to stand in the middle. That has it’s advantages and disadvantages (makes you look better, makes it easier for the other two to gang up on you) but overall it gives the person in the centre greater prominence.

Now in the first debate, the general shot used when they wanted to do that was this one:

Debate 1 Long

A straight on view that shows all three leaders from a distance.

If they wanted to punch in close you got something like this:

Debate 1 Close

An angled shot that was still clearly in front of the leaders but balanced the prominence a little between the closest and centre leader.

Now, lets take a look at Murdoch’s debate. It’s worth saying that these screencaps say a lot more, as the camera was very dynamic in the ITV debate, panning around the speakers and cutting to close-ups more often. The Sky debate use static cameras almost exclusively other than when showing the audience. As such, these particular angles were used a lot more. As far as I could tell, the favourite shot of the Sky production team was this one:

Debate 2 Long

A distant shot over Brown’s shoulder that emphasises him and places the other two leaders in the background. There was a similar shot from the other direction, but that was rarely used. Also for some reason Sky kept showing shots from this entirely pointless camera:
Debate 2 Pointless

I’d argue that we only really needed that shot once just to establish that all the leaders were in fact wearing trousers.

Also of note is the colour scheme. The ITV debate gave equal weighting to the red, blue and yellow colours of each party. Sky only used red and blue, but cleverly did it in the style of the UK flag, hence heading off any arguments that they had no reason to exclude yellow. Rather, they had no good reason.

I’d point out that if you look carefully you can probably find examples of these angles being used in the other debate and vice-versa, I’m not claiming that they were used this way exclusively. Just that the ones I present here were used much more often in comparison.

- 2 comments by 0 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I noiced those things too, to the extent that I became more intrigued by that aspect of it than what they were actually saying. There were a lot of shots from behind which seemed rather strange but made it clear that Nick Clegg had the best posture (he is also the most photogenic). In the shot you mention where Gordon Brown is in the foreground, I disagree that this gives him any kind of prominence as both he and David Cameron are looking at Nick Clegg as if he is the one to listen to.

    25 Apr 2010, 09:10

  2. Sue

    Noiced anything about me lately?

    25 Apr 2010, 12:29

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